expat blogger

living in Serbia

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Waking up in Novi Sad


A few weeks ago I spent a week in Novi Sad with a wonderful friend and her family. It was such a pleasure to wake up with English and go to sleep to it. The entire week was in English. My host family speaks both Serbian and English, but spoke English mostly for me. I cannot tell you how relaxing this was, not to have to try to understand. No stress!

I enjoyed waking up with the kids, watching cartoons, and playing cars and games with them. I also spent time teaching them new games and making beautiful snowflakes with them. Without a language barrier, much more was possible. Imagine trying to teach someone a new game with rules when there is a great wall between you. That is how how it is when you cannot communicate. 

You may think it is incredibly lazy that I don't speak Serbian yet, but I do put effort into it. I am learning, slowly. I must also tell you, I have met a few other expats like me who do not even care to try. 

At home my husband and I speak English. Once in a while a few Serbian words are sprinkled in. I am understanding more than last time when I was here, and get along O.K. on my own, but miss out on most of the conversation. And it is extremely exhausting. After an hour or so of listening my brain kinda shuts off.  Sometimes even sooner. Especially if the conversation in boring. I just quit trying, switch the brain to another channel, and usually feel kind of alone. That is why this week was so magical.


I was only alone, when I was alone! Glorious! and I didn't mind because I was exploring a gorgeous city. In fact, I haven't this kind of wonderful alone time in a while, and I realized I had missed it, a lot. I think some of that kind of alone may be called FREEDOM. such a lovely word. Wow, and I am realizing as I am writing this that I feel caged in my little Serbian town. I feel limited, muzzled, and alone.

The fact is, when I got back to my town, I couldn't wait to leave again. And when people ask me how I like our town, I am honest with them. I do like it. But I cannot be completely honest. It would be rude. But most of the time I am just sad and alone in this town.


Novi Sad gave me Wings, a Tongue, and Free time! I could be me. My heart was light and singing like Maria in the Sound of Music! Cheesy, but true.

I had wonderful discussions with my friend every morning over coffee and great times playing with the kids. I cannot express the joy of having some one who understands the way I think, and not to have to worry weather I may somehow offend him or her with my thoughts. Refreshing.

To help some of you understand, things that are completely natural here are not tolerated or accepted in where I am from, and the opposite is also true. I cannot speak freely, because the way I think and what I believe, is not O.K.  To speak freely here would be like saying, "The sun is the center of our universe," to the old Catholic Church. It doesn't go over well. Sometimes I feel like there is an iron curtain over me. It is very heavy.

I believe I am adjusting to living here, but like all adjustment there are hard parts. This is one of them. Anyone who has lived in another country for more than a short vacation can surely empathize. One must give up something for another. It will take time for me to be truly comfortable here, if that is even possible. I am really not sure. Time will tell.

The family and friends that I have here make all the difference in the world. They make my time here so much better and I don't believe I could be here without their love and support. I am really happy to have them.

I am hoping that if we buy a house here, and I have a little space of my own, things will feel a bit different. I will have the freedom to be myself in my own home. I can decorate it and grow a nice garden. Hard work and a nice living space can make all the difference in the world for your psyche.

I would love to hear what you think on this subject of trying to make a home here in my second home. I am open to advice as long as you are kind. I would love your thoughts on the situation, especially if you have first hand experience with this. Thank your for reading and for your kind, helpful comments.
One more blog to come next week on my Novi Sad Trip. Until then, have a great week.

3 comments:

Jay said...

Hi T.

Beautifully written and nice to hear from another ex pat in another part of the World . I think having your own home in Serbia will make the World of difference in being comfortable although the language barrier will still be there . I am so happy in my home here outside Pai where no one in my village speaks English . I have tried with Thai and is very difficult but even more so being in a far northern village the people here don't even speak a traditional Thai . So I have Wat and the village children are not afraid to speak a few words because they learn English in school . But lucky for me I have Wat whose English is perfect and I only have to drive 5 minutes into Pai where most people do speak English . And you have been here so you know you can get by without speaking Thai. I just wish I could have a conversation with my neighbors , it cuts out a lot of potential friendships being made not being able to communicate . I guess the other thing is , I"m not here all year and be leaving like you in another 6 weeks or so. So we have one foot in our foreign adopted home and we have one foot in our natural homes which we will be going back to soon .But we get to have experiences that only few have and that is special .
Love you , Jay

Jay said...

Hi T.

Beautifully written and nice to hear from another ex pat in another part of the World . I think having your own home in Serbia will make the World of difference in being comfortable although the language barrier will still be there . I am so happy in my home here outside Pai where no one in my village speaks English . I have tried with Thai and is very difficult but even more so being in a far northern village the people here don't even speak a traditional Thai . So I have Wat and the village children are not afraid to speak a few words because they learn English in school . But lucky for me I have Wat whose English is perfect and I only have to drive 5 minutes into Pai where most people do speak English . And you have been here so you know you can get by without speaking Thai. I just wish I could have a conversation with my neighbors , it cuts out a lot of potential friendships being made not being able to communicate . I guess the other thing is , I"m not here all year and be leaving like you in another 6 weeks or so. So we have one foot in our foreign adopted home and we have one foot in our natural homes which we will be going back to soon .But we get to have experiences that only few have and that is special .
Love you , Jay

BestPit said...

I have had a similar experience on a smaller scale. But I understand the loneliness. I love reading your experiences and thoughts. My prayers are with you and Milan as you continue to grown in your relationships and cultural experiences :)